Advice on manners and morals.

Advice on manners and morals.

Advice on manners and morals.

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Advice on manners and morals.
Jan. 26 2006 6:51 AM

What Child Is This?

The father of my grandchild won't tell his family about the baby.


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Dear Prudence,
My daughter had a baby recently. The father (they are not married and he lives with his parents) was at the hospital and visits the baby often. The problem is he has not yet told his parents that there is a baby. The more we watch this precious child grow and change, the more it seems that someone should let them in on the secret. My daughter says to stay out of it. The father says he wants his parents to know and he will tell them, but somehow he has not been able to yet. Will it ever be OK for me to tell his parents about their granddaughter?

—Wanting To See the Right Thing Happen

Dear Want,
It would be quite a shock for the other grandparents to hear this news from you. The young man must tell them, and Prudie is guessing he is quite young if he's living at home and the new parents aren't married. (Like maybe high school?) As close as you should come to moving the situation forward is to strongly encourage the baby's father to tell his folks soon, because this is not the kind of news one can keep close to the vest. You might be more persuasive if you offer to go with him when he breaks the news about the little bundle of joy. Good luck to one and all.


—Prudie, relatively

Dear Prudence,
I am cursed by having the greatest job in the world. I've worked long and hard to get here and, although it continues to be hard work, it is incredibly fulfilling. My problem is that my husband  has been very depressed and has no work opportunities or friends in this location. He's transformed from an interesting, considerate, generally happy-go-lucky guy into an angry and bitter person who is only decent to me in front of other people. Our toddler is starting to follow his example. The situation stinks, but we cannot seem to find a realistic solution together; we can barely have a conversation. I don't actually want to leave him—but sometimes I sure wouldn't mind if he left me! If we didn't have kids (the toddler and a newborn) I would feel a lot more comfortable telling him to shape up.


Dear Stuck,
Your husband feels inadequate, hence the depression. Somehow, the no-opportunities/no-friends state of affairs needs to be solved. Could any of your contacts help him? Might he be happy as a "formal" house husband—as many fathers have chosen to be? A therapist for him would seem to be indicated, one who might or might not prescribe medication. A couples therapist, as well, could be useful in thrashing out the real issues. You still have some steps to take before you throw in the towel. Try, in whatever ways are available to you, to get back the great guy you used to be with. Good luck.


—Prudie, hopefully

Dear Prudie,
If the road to hell is paved with good intentions, my mother-in-law is on her way. I have never met anyone who wanted to do so much for me, but therein lies the problem. As kind and generous as she is, she has a tendency to make herself too much at home. Several times she has stayed a weekend with us and done our laundry, taken over responsibility for our son, and bought stuff we already have and do not need. I appreciate her efforts, but she doesn't bother to ask, she just does, feeling that she's helping out. (What she is actually doing is driving me crazy.) I know how to do my own laundry and am happy to do it. I can take care of my son and am quite tired of hearing, "He needs his Nan." My husband has made several efforts to help his mother understand that I would rather take care of my own household. I've come to the point where I've asked my husband to inform his parents that the next time they visit to perhaps stay in a hotel. On previous occasions, they had offered to get a room, but have since stopped. I do love my mother-in-law, and I appreciate her good intentions, but she's killing me with kindness, and I'd like her to stop!

—Keeping MIL From Burning

Dear Keep,
It would be useful if you could loosen up, just a little, and understand that your m-i-l is trying to live up to her idea of being a good grandma. Perhaps you could tolerate having a visiting "laundress" when she visits, as well as accepting unnecessary "stuff" (which perhaps could be returned)? If putting up with all this helpfulness, however, is going to give you a stomachache, then tell her gently that you'd like her to be a real guest when she visits, and it works better for you if the regular routine is maintained. And reintroduce the hotel idea. Prudie hopes, however, that you will hear the unstated message in, "He needs his Nan."


—Prudie, benevolently

Dear Prudie,
I finally did it. While sitting at my favorite coffee shop I endured an excruciating 25 minutes until I could bear it no more. I loudly told the mother of a 2-year-old to shut her child up. I have no regrets, but am interested in your opinion. Every day I listen to college-age women gab on their cell phones about the most intimate matters, while I am sitting mere feet away. I once gently told one woman, about to initiate her fourth 15-minute conversation of the day, that I had been learning a good deal about her, her friends, and her thoughts about life and relationships. While I found it interesting, I wondered whether she really wanted to share all these things with a complete stranger. Stunned into silence, she withdrew into, mirabile visu, private meditation. Today I witnessed the drearily familiar scene of a parent, undoubtedly driven mad by the auditory excesses of her child, seeking solace over coffee with friends. Who would not sympathize? Well, I don't, not when she barely made an effort to quiet a kid who was running around and screaming. It is wrong to take my time away from me because you are unable to discipline your child. Our society is losing touch with the concept of borders and the separation between public and private. Today I struck a small blow for a return to the notion of shared space that does not equate to the absolute surrender by all to the whims of a 2-year-old.


Dear Un,
Prudie shares your feelings entirely. Observation suggests that we are too deep into a culture of "do whatever." Cell phones are, alas, now part of life, and either people don't care that they're bothering others and may be overheard—or they've never given it a thought. We are also in agreement that borders and boundaries are gone with the wind, save for the minority who still cares about politesse. To protect yourself, my only recommendation would be to find places that are not hangouts for young mothers. This is a public policy problem with no answer. Probably the best thing you can do (when you can stand it no longer) is to say something. Once in a while it may even do some good.

—Prudie, sadly